This photo was created by Grace Ciszkowski from Celebrating Freedom.
Grace survived the horrors of being kidnapped by a serial rapist / murderer. You can read more about her incredible life journey at her FaceBook page, CelebratinFreedom.
A Helpful Reminder While Recovering from Trauma:
Extinguish fear by relaxing your body.
The brain cannot produce fear while the body is relaxed.
What do you think about these ideas?
When you are feeling fear, can you relax your body?
When you are relaxed, do you feel fear?
When I first saw this photo, I thought of body memories and the effect they have on survivors in the here-and-now.
Have your body memories ever affected you in such a way that it felt impossible to relax and be calm even though you were intellectually aware of being in the current date and time, in a safe place, separate and away from the traumatic situations of the past?
Do the reactions from your body memories ever feel like they are interfering with whatever you are wanting to accomplish?
Do you end up feeling intense fear from the past when you are trying to do something different in the present?
In my experience with dissociative trauma survivors, these are common experiences.
A lifetime full of trauma teaches dissociative people how to separate from their body on an ongoing basis.
This incredible skill initially helped with the survival of terrible abuses, allowing the person to separate from the intensity of the pain, especially during the crisis moments.
After years of repeating the separation of mind and body, this separation becomes the norm.
The body automatically feels like a different entity – it becomes its own “self”, separate from the person.
For survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID / MPD), the insiders of all different ages and sizes may very well not claim the body anyway, adding more reasons to stay disconnected from the body.
Reconnecting with the body takes a lot of work, a lot of practice, and a lot of emotional healing.
The body remembers much of the pain, via cellular memory. Body memories are examples of the body remembering. The body often tenses up and re-experiences the pain that it tried to dissociate from. This can hurt! The body can re-create marks, and bruises, and old welts as well.
How to help?
Teaching the body to relax, and to stay calm, and to not go into traumatic memory is an important part of healing.
1. Process the trauma through talk therapy. Yes, all the insiders of your system need time to talk and talk and talk about the hurts they experienced! Genuine emotional healing allows for more distance from the physical pain of the past, and lessens the chances of unexpected new pains surfacing in the now.
2. Living a genuinely safe life, free from ongoing and current-day abuses is obviously important. Ongoing trauma adds to PTSD symptoms, keeps the body needing to dissociate, keeps fear in the forefront, and obviously goes opposite to being able to relax and feel at peace. The safer you are, the better. For your body to be able to calm down, you need a calm life.
3. Making necessary adjustments and changes to the internal worlds, and cleaning / comforting the inner people and inner worlds helps the outside body as well. The trauma and chaos of the internal world truly impacts the amount of pain felt in the outside body. For example, if Little Jenny on the inside is stuck in a painful traumatic memory situation where she is feeling intense body pain internally, it is essential to internally move her (on the inside) to a new, clean, safe, comfortable place, far away from the traumatic picture she was caught in. If Little Jenny’s inside body isn’t feeling the pain, the outside body can stop feeling the pain as well.
4. EMDR and biofeedback can also be helpful in teaching the body to relax and increase calm. The brain learns new ways to experience calmness and less fear. It’s always good for the brain to learn the feeling of safety, peace, and calm. The brain can help guide the body towards less fear.
5. Participating in any variety of exercises, yoga, or pilates, swimming, safe body massage, sitting in sauna’s or spa’s or hot springs can all help the body to learn how to relax. These exercises will need to be repeated frequently to create new muscle memory.
It is absolutely necessary to teach your tense anxious muscles how to feel peace and calm. The more you don’t know how to feel peace and calm, the more essential it is for you to learn how to have less fear in your life. It is imperative to learn to slow your breathing, and to find a place of quiet, rest, and stress-free living.
And as your body learns to calm, your mind and inner self can calm as well.
Or is it as your mind and inner self learns to calm, your body can calm as well.
I’m not sure which is first — the chicken or the egg — but both are important.
What I do know is…. you’ve experienced more than enough fear, more than enough panic, more than enough pain, more than enough crisis, more than enough adrenaline. Way too much, way too often. And now, now it is okay, very very okay, to learn how to feel calm, peaceful, safe, and unworried.
Yes, extinguish fear by relaxing your body.
Let go of as much fear as you can….
Your body will thank you for it.
Copyright © 2008-2017 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation
We dont have been sleeping good this week. We be on some new medicine. We toss and turn a lot. We be trying to teach ourselves something new. We found some play lists on youtube that have ten hours of relaxing sounds. Usually when we wake up we get all nervous and anxious about what if we cant get back to sleep, what if we hve to go to work tomorrow even though we have been up since 2:30, stuff like that.
So this week we be practicing something. When we wake up during the night we try to not start worrying. We just tell ourselfs, its ok, this isnt a big deal, this isnt anything to be scared of. So the past few nights we have done better about going back to sleep. Because we dont get all worked up. We get mae and jadie and put them back in their beds inside. And in a little bit we fall back to sleep. The other night it tookus 2 hours but after that we finally fell asleep again.
We be on vacation this week and i think that helps. So hopefully if we wake up lots next week we can do this to. We rtry to relx our body starting with our head and go to our toes. We try to imagine that some one we love be talking to us. Sometimes we put a movie on to watch. So hopefully we can keep this up even when we go back to work on monday
our body dont ever relax. the muscles always be so tight. it kinda hurts.
In order to do EMDR, does a client have to have a specific memory? I see this in many articles as a successful ways of treating DID, however, when I ask my T to try this she states I have to have a very specific memory in order to do it. Also, is ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) at all effective in DID therapy?
Just Me says
I am not an EMDR trained therapist, but my therapist is and she has lots of experience in working with DID. I find EMDR very helpful and don’t need a specific memory to start. We start with a problem and oftentimes as we progress through the process I discover a memory or piece of memory that relates to what feels “stuck” in the present. That being said, I had a previous therapist who had training and experience with EMDR but not much experience with DID and she caused more harm than help. So….I recommend finding someone who has experience using EMDR with folks with DID!@
Hi, Just Me. Our Ts say they won’t/can’t do EMDR until we can remain in the present. Apparently, a few years in and we still can’t be reliably present. Past/present/future/dream/delusion/dissociation/empathy are definitely jumbled up for us.
Can we ask how you achieve “presence” in your lives? It makes us hopeful that you have an effective T. Thanks.
And “hi” to everyone reading. 8/21/18
My body dont relax
It allways be tents
It allways be all tite
There allways be lots of bad felings in my body from things that pepol did
Caden ben taking muscol relaxers but they dont do nuthing. The dr say them shuld work so hard they make me fall asleep. But they dont do nuthing at all even if we take 2.
I try to take deep breths to help but that dont work.
Do it ever gona get beter? Just cuz of what the bad pepol did my body gona hurt forever?
We still want to no how to do it
We dont no the last time are body be colm
Always are body hurt and be hard to move and dont relax
I still got to learn this. I dont no how.my body always be tents. Where do i learn ? From rachel
I wish i no how to make my body colm
I take deep breths but it dont wrok
Are musols owas be tite
We ben trying very hard to relax this summer
Caden even got a masaj
The masai lady her say WOW you be so tite you sholdrs be like rocks!
We swim to try to relx to
Are body hurts all the time from no relax
We dont sleep no more
I be kind of afrad cuz we hittid are head so hard the other day and sins then we got a bad hedake and feel sick all the time
That man say you need to relx an get aholld of you self cuz you gona kill you self
He say he gona put us in the hosbitol
We try to lisin to relax music
We try red the bible
We try to wash funy muvies to relX
Nuthihg be working yet
Caden say we got to dind somthing that works rel soon
How do i make my boddy colm?
How I wish I could actually read these articles….they are too overwhelming for me….it’s too hard. 🙁 I wish I could listen to them instead.
I wish I could read these articles…but they are too overwhelming for me…I wish I could listen to them.
Kathy Broady says
That is a great idea. As I am currently making changes and improvements to this blog, I will look at making podcasts or MP3’s for the various articles. That’s a big learning curve for me, but I certainly hear what you are saying. 🙂
Thanks for the comment – much appreciated.
How do me lern to make my boddy colm
Spehsaly whem my stomak gets all wereed and it gets sick,.?
My stomak it dosent want to colm down
How to i lern it to?
This was a really great article. When I was doing research on DID for two different psych classes, I discovered that both the amygdala and the hippocampus are both connected to trauma and memory. I also found that exercise can actually repair the hippocampus that was thought to be non-repairable.
Cortisol, the flight or fight hormone, can actually be released as well when too much is built up in our systems. Cortisol is needed but too much, like anything else is not a good thing. Releasing cortisol can be done by the very things you mentioned as well to help us relax.
Learning to relax has positive results. Not just for brain function but also for proper hormone function as well.
Thank you. Healing.
Kathy Broady says
Hello Journey of the broken pieces,
Thanks for your comment, and welcome to Discussing Dissociation.
You are certainly learning lots! The brain is a fascinating topic – I wish I knew more about all the cool stuff it does.
I’m glad to hear that the ideas I found that have can be helpful for people needing to reduce the effects of trauma have some grounding in science, biology, and brain studies. If it makes sense in the clinical / treatment area, it’s makes sense that it would fit in the science / biology areas as well. Excellent news.
Keep up the good work — your healing will come.
Dont no why aneybody wuld want to be in there body. We dont want to. It isnt ares aneway. Its that other girls body. This body is yukky it oways is haveing body memeries and flash backs
and emdr is BADBADBAD and just made stuff lots lots werse. Lots werse
We swim and the water it fels good its nice and smuth and soft
We dont got aney safe plase there is no safe plase to go
Kathy Broady says
Thanks for your comment.
The body doesn’t have to be a bad thing… it wasn’t meant to be a bad thing. I can understand how difficult it is tho’ when the body holds so much of the pain. It’s not fun when there is so much yucky stuff to remember.
I am glad you are a swimmer. Swimming is an excellent way to get exercise, and to do something with the body that doesn’t have to hurt the body.
And remember, you can build some internal safe places that belong to you and only you. Outside safe places might include places like your swimming pool, or a favorite park, or sitting under a table, or tucking inside your own room, or hiding under a blanket. Even if a safe place is safe for a little while, that’s better than feeling like there is nothing at all. Look for something that can be at least a little safe, or mostly safe. An “all or nothing” approach to safety might get too discouraging, so find something / some place where most of the time that you are there, you are not experiencing new hurts.
There are safe places out there, even in this yucky scary world. Look for them — you’ll find them.
Do massages help? Any specific type
Massages can help, but can also trigger PTSD/DID symptoms.
I’ve had both simultaniously when i had massages.
But i did love the massages i got cause they made me aware of my body in a less scary way.
I just had classic massages, but also had shiatsu for problemareas.
The only way to know is to endure a massage.
And then…keep this in mind:
– Take a safe place,
– Agree on when to stop if it gets too hard for you,
– Be careful about where to massage,
– Take someone who you trust as a masseuse.
You can actually start by asking a friend of safe familymember to massage you to try out how you respond to it.
...a Beehive here Inside My Heart says
Thank you, this is a very timely post! 🙂
Kathy Broady says
Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad this article was helpful.
Is there anything further you can say about what’s going on for you?
Thanks for reading…. and I hope your fear lessens soon.
Got no words but y’know…..we get it.